The Kern County Planning Department held a public hearing Thursday night to allow the public to comment on whether the county should ban or regulate medical marijuana cultivation, manufacturing, and distribution.
Oviatt said during the hearing she believes regulation would make this industry become part of normal business practices and not be what it is now – what she called a “lawless industry”.
Half of the packed room raised their hands when asked if they wanted to comment Thursday night – during the comment section roughly half of commentors were in favor of a ban while the other half wanted regulation.
A spokesperson with the Kern County Sheriff's Office also spoke out -- saying the department as a whole wants to adopt the ban, not regulation.
Many residents cited facts, concerned about the health of marijuana users, children of users, and drivers who come across those under the influence. Cancer patients who use medical marijuana voiced their concern on the future of the industry.
Under the regulatory option, a total of 32 countywide retail operations would be allowed. No more than two would be allowed per designated area on their map. The planning department assumes each will have around 2,000 customers in their EIR report.
The department estimates that regulation would create 8,750 full time jobs in the county.
Planning Director Lorelei Oviatt mentioned that around 121 retail operations are currently running throughout the county – they told her they serve about one million people.
Twenty-eight dispensaries in the county are legally established under the moratorium. These medical dispensaries would be allowed to operate for two years with medical cannabis only and after that time they would have to go through a process to get the permit.
The new regulations would require all marijuana businesses to pay a certain county tax per square foot and donate to community programs.
The new rules and regulations would trump any previous moratoriums or rules the county has established. However, adult cannabis use is still allowed under Proposition 64.
State licensing begins January 1, 2018. State laws will go into effect where county and city rules aren’t put into place.
At the end of the meeting three planning commissioners said they were in favor of regulation and a fourth said they favored a ban. The motion will be put on the October 24th agenda for the Kern County Board of Supervisors.
More information can be found on their website.